Commission Held That Claimant, Who Suffered Heart Attack While Hanging Drywall, Sustained Compensable Accident

Claimant, a 57-year-old carpenter, suffered a heart attack while hanging drywall with his partner. He started working at 7:00 a.m. at an office building. At 9:15 a..m. began sweating profusely. He felt a tightening around his chest. He drove his personal vehicle home and was transported by ambulance to the hospital, where he was diagnosed as having suffered an acute myocardial infarction. He subsequently underwent triple coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

The claimant testified that the work he had done that day required him to jump up and down from a scaffold 15 to 20 times. He wore a 25lb tool belt while working. For 30 years prior to the heart attack, claimant smoked a pack of cigarettes per day. Evidence also indicated that he had hypertension and serious occlusion of the coronary arteries.

Claimant’s treating cardiologist noted in his records that given the serious occlusion of claimant’s arteries, any extreme exertion could have been a contributing factor of the initiation of the myocardial infarction. Claimant’s expert also testified that the presence of severe preexisting coronary disease made claimant vulnerable to a myocardial infarction when he performed the kind of excessive exertion required to hang drywall.

The Commission, in awarding benefits, held that claimant’s physical labor and increased exertion of his duties caused stress upon his weakened body, which resulted in an acute myocardial infarction.

Commission held that correctional officer’s injuries, sustained while playing basketball during lunch hour, arose out of and in course of employment

Claimant, a correctional officer, testified that he injured his right ankle while playing basketball on his lunch break. He jumped up to block a shot and landed on his right ankle, twisting it. During the lunch break, claimant was permitted to be in the cafeteria, the roll cal room or the gymnasium. He regularly went to the gymnasium during his lunch break andplayed pick-up basketball with other co-workers. The games were not organized and employees came and went throughout the lunch break. The basketball was provided by defendant. No inmates were in the gymnasium during lunch breaks. Besides the basketball court, the gymnasium contained ping pong equipment, weights and a stationary bicycle. Evidence indicated that defendant acquiesced in the lunch break gymnasium activities.

The arbitrator awarded benefits, holding that an accident occurred that arose out of and in the course of employment with defendant. In so holding, the arbitrator found that the basketball game was not a “recreational activity” but that it was an activity within the personal comfort doctrine and incidental to the employment.

In affirming the decision of the arbitrator, the Commission found its significant that claimant could not leave the premises during his lunch hour.